Even the most casual followers of Italian football are aware of the dark history of the rivalry between the Milan clubs. The peak of the violence associated with the fixture between the two may have been a long time ago but the Inter Milan Ultras are still very much in the forefront of matters. Joseph Solomon traces the origin and history of ‘organized groups’ of the Nerazzuri.
Milan, a city which schleps the perfect amalgamation of historic trademarks and modern day razzmatazz, needs little introduction. Etched with landmarks, from time immemorial, the city has taken like a fish to water when it comes to the Italian heartthrob, football. The beautiful game flows in Italian veins ever since the British, tutored the peninsula men in the ways of football, and can only be juxtaposed, to the Italian passion for wine. Capital of Lombardy, Milan witnessed it’s fare share of combat, violence and skirmishes in the middle ages, thanks to Frederick I Barbarossa and King Charles VIII of France, but still stood strong and became the hub of finance and banking, much like football in modern times. Analogous to Milan’s rich history, are the set of two contrasting aficionados, who have taken passion, possibly like the King of France, to an all new level.
Two power houses of Italian football and European football, Internazionale and AC, both suffixed with Milan are situated in the heart of the former Western Roman capital. While, the Nerazzuri occupies Curva Nord, the Rossoneri populates Curva Sud. The black and blue part of this prodigiously blended city, have been a major force to reckon with, when it comes to testing the elasticity of one’s passion.
A club which emerged out of Milan’s first, AC Milan, Internazionale has been the pioneer of many things in Italian football. From Herrera’s Catenaccio, which also caused the formation of many Ultras, to the recent Calciopoli, Inter Milan, has tasted (almost) everything and anything. Winner of 18 scudettos, 7 Coppa Italias and 5 Suppercoppa Italianas, the insatiable appetite to engulf coveted trophies is Internazionale’s highlight and could be only juxtaposed against it’s sprightly ultras, who erupt joyously at the slightest timbre of ‘Pazza Inter Amala’, Inter’s anthem.
The power these set of energetic fans, or Ultras have over Internazionale, since the time of Herrera, is noteworthy yet spine-chilling and fascinating. A streak of unparalleled success, resulting in trophies and accolades, whilst been dubbed the most notorious side – ‘Ill Grande Inter’ under Il Mago – gave birth to the first organized support group, in Inter’s history, I Moschettieri (the Musketeers). The Musketeers were the first of its kind and brought a radical change to the mentalities of Inter supporters, who were held by the clutches of ‘Victory is everything’ – a motto largely practiced by Herrera. These Musketeers believed that ‘supporters’ should lay a groundwork and become a source of inspiration, whilst expressing their feelings – mostly positive, for the team. Groups such as Aficionados, began to sprout with the sole aim of supporting the team – with parameters mentioned by I Moschettieri– and the notion of a mass ‘army’ was conceived. Almost expeditiously, the Milanese witnessed the birth of the first Official Ultra group, named Boys-San, formed in 1969. The Boys-San were originally named 11 Assi – Boys Le Furie Nerazzurre (11 Axes – the Furious Black and Blue Boys), inspired by a mischievous character called Boy in a cartoon published by the Internazionale magazine during that era.
Although the Boys were very similar to the style of vocal support adopted in Italy, they differed when it came to organization and that was what set them apart. The Boys were highly organized in skirmishes and constantly set benchmarks for other Italian Ultras. Unity became the code to live and die by for the Boys and were constantly tutelaged in the concept of unselfish behavior. These pioneering moments for Boys, started out rivalries with Ultras of Juventus, Torino, Verona and notably against neighbors AC Milan.
The Milan derby is always seen as a perfect opportunity to sway the city to either Red or Blue and was marred with horrific scenes of violence in the early 1970s, when Inter and AC Milan’s ultras resided side by side. The atrocities of violence claimed many victims as Milan became a cauldron of total war. Such was the magnitude of violence that it claimed victims even in daily realm of life. Following another horrific derby in 1983, a pact of non-aggression was agreed upon which banned violence as a harbinger to peg shame. Since then, the Milan Derby has been something of a safe haven for Ultras, who now indulge in taunts, satirical banners and sarcastic chants. The Interisti, have enough ammunition and often scratch AC Milan’s wounds of the early 1980s, which saw the Rossoneri get relegated twice due to match fixing scandals.
In recent times, the Interisti, excluding the Milan derby, have donned a more horrific outfit when it comes to ‘rest of Italy’, which involves blood lust for power and violence. In 2001, following a clash against fellow Lombard-ians Atlanta, the Interisti smuggled a motorbike in Curva Nord, allegedly stolen from Atalantini. In one of the most peculiar standout cases in Italian football history, analogous to the scooter-pushed-off-the-stands incident, the Interisti, after failing to set fire on the vehicle, launched it into the lower sections of the ground.
However, there are only few places in Milan that could be more stylish and energetic than a cold Sunday night in Inter’s Curva Nord. The Curva Nord has been seen as a fulcrum of Internazionale support, even by the Inter players themselves. Reports of Il Capitano Javier Zanetti and Marco Materazzi dining with Ultras are not sporadic. The club has identified these Ultras as a part of their nation wide support.
The history of Milan has been etched with blood lust and violence. In a city divided by two footballing powers, the Interisti have successfully stamped their authority in Milan, as well as in Italy, by creating a vigorous, energetic and lively atmosphere, highlighted with the use of pyrotechnics and flares.
Written by Joseph Solomon